Ever since I met Ms B for the first time some eleven years ago, she won’t stop talking about how she went quad-biking in the desert in Egypt and how exciting it was. To me, quads never felt that attractive. They are much slower than rally cars, accelerate a million times slower than, say, a top of the range Rage Buggy (post here), you can’t jump with them like you could with a motocross bike, their centre of weight is much further north than that of most vehicles, making it much more prone to fall over in the corners or when going uphill or downhill, so what’s the attraction, I thought.
All photos (c) BSqB; photos showing me have been very kindly taken by Ollie Wates, the instructor.
When I saw an advertisement by Southern Pursuits for their quad-biking experience, I knew I had to book it and find out for myself. I purchased the standard one-hour £54 group session ticket, booked my return train tickets to Three Bridges station (not to Crawley station, which is further away from the destination, not on the mainline, and which has less frequent service and more interruptions) next to Gatwick Airport, and soon the day arrived for me to make my journey to Tulleys Farm. The taxi I had booked from the train was already waiting for me to take me the 4.5km distance to Tulleys Farm for £10.
As nearly always with those activities, I arrived with plenty of time to spare, so had a bacon sarnie and vast amounts of builder’s tea at the local tea rooms, watching the turkeys walk around outside in the garden, until the Southern Pursuits instructors arrived and set up shop in the courtyard.
My instructor, Ollie, introduced himself, and we enjoyed some banter with the other instructors while I was signing in. It turned out that Ollie had just returned from one and a half years in Malaga and that today’s session was going to be his first session since arriving back in Old Blighty. More importantly, I found out that I was going to be the only trainee quad biker during our session with no one else causing congestion on the 8 kilometres of purpose-built tracks.
I had followed the operator’s recommendations and was wearing all-terrain, water-proof gear, including heavy hiking boots. I donned the helmet and was ready to go. We walked the short distance from the farm buildings to the beginning of the track where two quad bikes had already been parked.
The initial briefing, instructions, and exercises were over very quickly, it’s so easy to drive these clumsy-looking thingies. A few last checks, and off we were on our merry way. Nearly all of the trails consist of two railroad-track-like furrows which your ATV’s wheels will be gliding through in parallel. You learn how when going through difficult terrain you don’t keep the throttle at steady speed but go in bursts. This makes it less likely that the vehicle’s tyres grind themselves into the ground, bringing the vehicle to a stop.
It is true that we were not going at excessive speeds, probably never more than 35km/h or so, but I could not believe how robust and agile these quads are. Regularly I could see Ollie’s ATV’s axes cut through the mud. The 350cc Yamaha motors didn’t seem to mind sucking in muddy water. All it did to them was cause them to produce some steam to go with the fumes from the actual combustions of the engine. No puddle was too deep, no hill too steep. Heck, I started to consider buying myself one of these bundles of joy. This was more fun than off-roading!
I will almost certainly do some more quad biking very soon. 5 out of 5 in my book, despite the fact that it took me thirty minutes to clean my clothes afterwards at a water tap next to the stables at the farm (do not use the restrooms or washbasins to clean your clothes, please) to get myself clean enough to be eligible for a cab ride back to the station.
For more ideas about outdoor activities in and around London, feel welcome to eyeball our posts about mountain biking in the North Downs, riding a very fast rubber boat on the Thames, ziplining next to the Houses of Parliament, or the time we jumped out of a plane near Cambridge.